Recently, the Columbus Dispatch published an editorial piece by reporter and editorial writer Joe Hallett that ripped the Ohio liberty movement. We get hammered for daring to endorse the legal and democratic remedy of the primary process to protect our state from Governor Kasich’s proposals to institute new redistributive taxes and expand Medicaid in accordance with Obamacare. For standing fast on principle and for our sentiment to hold representatives accountable, we are labeled a “band of rigid intimidators”.

The original article by Mr. Hallett is 662 words long and was published on Sunday, February 24, 2013.  Here is a link to the piece.

I wrote a response to this article last Monday and submitted it to the Dispatch.  Within a few hours I received a very pleasant email from Mr. Hallett who was extremely gracious and complimentary in regard to my response. Later, however, I got a rather curt email from another member of the Dispatch staff,

Your piece is 758 words, which is way, way too much.  Please cut it to 500 words and (we’ll) consider it…Also, don’t send the revision as an attachment. Instead, copy and paste the revised letter into the body of the email. We don’t like opening attachments.

Geez! Who’s the rigid intimdator now? I took a deep breath, cut my response down to exactly 500 words, and re-submitted it.  They were kind enough to publish my letter on Saturday, March 2nd. Here is the link.

So, did I get a fair chance to reply? 162 fewer words (24.55% less) and running on Saturday versus Sunday? You decide. Maybe this post will help make up the difference. The media paradigm is changing. We no longer need the good graces of newspapers to reach tens of thousands of Ohioans. Today, when we have something important to say, we can speak directly to the people ourselves.

Here is my full 758 word response before I had to downsize it:

On Sunday, February 24th, Columbus Dispatch (February 24th, 2013, E9), Joe Hallett, a reporter and opinion columnist, published an editorial that articulated what can only be described as an open display of disrespect and contempt for Ohio’s conservative grassroots movement and, more importantly, democracy.

Responding to the Ohio Liberty Coalition’s recent call to hold elected officials accountable for how they vote on Governor John Kasich’s proposed budget, we are called “rigid intimidators” and labeled harshly as a “fringe” group.  However, if standing firm on our principles makes us “rigid”, and advocating for the peaceful repair of our state at the ballot box makes us “intimidating”, then we will wear those labels with pride.

More troubling is Mr. Hallett’s clear opinion that holding elected officials accountable in the only manner our democracy allows is somehow illegitimate or rigid. Of all people, Mr. Hallett should know that elected officials care mostly about getting reelected. Placing that occurrence in doubt is a vital way Ohioans can fight back against the entrenched interests on the Right and the Left, as well as the partisan concerns of the political parties. Mr. Hallett, while substantively disagreeing on the issue, should be cheering our effort to hold elected officials accountable.

But, are we a “fringe” group, really? One has to wonder how Mr. Hallett, holding such firm and public views of people and groups on the right, can perform his role as an objective reporter.

It was grassroots individuals from the many groups in our coalition that largely swept Republicans into power in Ohio in 2010. And, yes, that includes getting Governor Kasich elected.  Similarly, our groups played an instrumental role in helping volunteers collect over 440,000 signatures to put the Healthcare Freedom Amendment on the ballot in 2011. The vote on the amendment – the only time Ohioans have had a direct opportunity to reject any part of the federal government takeover of health care in our state – won with 66% of the ballot and passed in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.

We object to the government takeover of healthcare in Ohio and to the fiscally irresponsible growth of government entitlements.  As such, we wholly reject the governor’s proposed Medicaid expansion.  No matter how the issue is spun, the money for this expansion is neither really “ours” nor compassionate to accept.  It was not created by greater efficiency, innovation, or increased productivity in healthcare. Instead, these funds will come directly out of the entitlement pipeline that is bankrupting our nation.

The unbridled demagoguery in Mr. Hallett’s piece, substantially parroting Governor Kasich’s talking points, about how our opposition ignores the “least among us,” the “poor” and the “vulnerable” and that “almost every thoughtful group” endorses Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion is simply too much to take. There is nothing compassionate or moral about placing more Ohioans struggling to get by into a government program that gets poor results for recipients. Further, Mr. Hallett fails to note opposition to the expansion from groups like Cato, The Heritage Foundation, The Galen Institute, Opportunity Ohio, The Buckeye Institute, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity and a plethora of Republican governors and legislators in other states. Is Mr. Hallett really suggesting that these groups and individuals are uncaring and morally depraved for opposing the expansion of a federal program that costs too much and gets poor results?

As for Mr. Hallett’s assertion about Republicans (“Doesn’t the party have an obligation to support its governor and protect its incumbent legislators?”), I would remind Mr. Hallett that the party’s first duty is to Ohioans, not just the new Medicaid recipients, the hospital lobby, and columnists who like Big Government. We elect representatives to uphold our state’s Constitution and defend our principles.  Specifically, these are fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. If a governor goes rogue and decides that Valerie Jarrett, hospital lobbyists, and other special interests are more important than the citizens of his own state, the party has a duty to oppose him.

Make no mistake, the grassroots in Ohio are stronger, more organized, more experienced, and more effective than ever before.  We may not have been able to tip the scale in a rock-star, cult-of-personality presidential general election, but know this – we can absolutely slam-dunk a primary. Know also that we will support and defend with all our energy the legislators who uphold the freedom, individual rights, and prosperity of the people of our state.  We respectfully request that they now choose to do so.

Yours in Liberty,

Ted Stevenot
Ohio Liberty Coalition